Atlantic City Expressway, Pleasantville Toll Plaza

Based on unofficial traffic figures provided by the South Jersey Transportation Authority from the Atlantic City Expressway Pleasantville Toll Plaza, 818,255 toll-paying vehicles went into and out of the city between June 27 and July 8. 

ATLANTIC CITY — A proposal by City Council to double the fare at the Pleasantville Toll Plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway is unlikely to be enacted because of a conflict with the responsible agency’s rules and a lack of support from other local officials.

Council passed a resolution this month requesting the South Jersey Transportation Authority increase the fare at the toll plaza directly outside city limits from 75 cents to $1.50 and pass on the additional revenue to the city to provide tax relief for property owners.

The SJTA said toll revenue is not for any other purpose than operating and maintaining the Atlantic City Expressway.

Mayor Frank Gilliam said the resolution was not initiated or proposed by his office and that it actually caught him by surprise.

“Any time you’re looking to tap into or have someone increase fees for any particular reason, you want to have a discussion or conversation first,” Gilliam said Friday.

The mayor said that while the intent of the request was “honorable,” it was not something he supported.

State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, wrote a letter to SJTA Executive Director Stephen Dougherty on Friday urging the agency in charge of operating and maintaining the expressway to reject the proposal.

“Doubling the tolls on our middle-class families, at a time when 48 percent of Atlantic County households are now classified as ‘working poor,’ simply places another unfair burden on those trying to make ends meet,” Brown wrote in the letter dated May 18. “Instead of raising tolls, we should try to find ways to lower them.”

Mark Amorosi, spokesman for the SJTA, responded to a request for comment by outlining the statutory limitations and obligations the agency has in respect to tolls.

“South Jersey Transportation Authority’s bond covenants are governed by the Authority’s Bond Resolution,” Amorosi wrote in an email. “Under the Resolution, tolls and revenue from any other source (other than government grants) are pledged to satisfy debt service requirements and for operating, maintaining and repairing the transportation system. As revenue is collected, it is deposited with the Authority’s bond trustee as custodian. Diversion of toll revenue for any other purpose would create a default of SJTA’s debt covenants.”

If the Pleasantville Toll Plaza was doubled, would you still take the Atlantic City Expressway?

Atlantic City Council passed a resolution Wednesday requesting the fare be raised to $1.50 at the Atlantic City Expressway’s Pleasantville Toll Plaza, with the additional revenue going to the city.

You voted:

Council President Marty Small Sr. said the same proposal was part of the 2016 recovery plan city officials presented to the state prior to the takeover in November of that year.

“While we appreciate the Council President’s willingness to propose creative ways to raise revenue for Atlantic City, the particulars of this concept have not been vetted. There are a number of questions that need to be answered and an assessment needs to be done on the impact a toll increase would have not only on Atlantic City, but on everyone who uses the Atlantic City Expressway,” Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the city’s finances, wrote in an email Wednesday. “We welcome any innovative ideas the city’s elected leaders have to increase revenue and we will do our due diligence to review them on their merits.”

Based on 2017 toll plaza data, doubling the fare could net an additional $14 million in revenue.

Last year, Atlantic City property owners saw a municipal tax decrease for the first time in close to a decade. The 2018 city budget, which is expected to be presented to the public in June, is reportedly going to keep the tax rate level, with the possibility of another decrease.

Assemblymen John Armato and Vince Mazzeo, both D-Atlantic, said the idea could undermine the city’s progress and stifle enthusiasm for this summer, which will feature the opening of two casinos — Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino, both on June 28 — and Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus.

“All elected officials want to help the property taxpayers of the respective town,” Mazzeo said Tuesday. “But doubling the Pleasantville Toll Plaza isn’t a prudent way and, quite frankly, would be counterproductive in the turnaround of Atlantic City.”

Armato, when contacted Tuesday, said he was only recently made aware of the proposal. The first-term assemblyman questioned how it would impact people who drive into the city for work and said it would be “an all-around bad thing.”

“Atlantic City seems to be on the verge of good things, and we’re going to charge people more to come here?” Armato said. “We don’t want less (people) to come, we want more to come.”

Contact: 609-272-7222 DDanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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